Event Date: April 21, 2022
Location: Luncheon-The home of Terri and John Havens; Gala-The Post Oak at Uptown
Event: Luncheon and Gala
No. of Attendees: Luncheon-50+; Gala-700+
Money Raised: $1,800,000
Beneficiary: The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation
Chairpersons: Maria and Neal Bush
Hosts for Luncheon: Terri and John Havens
Sponsors: Phillips 66 and Quanex Foundation
Authors: Alafair Burke, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, Brad Meltzer and Dr. Rick Rigsby
Emcee: Daniella Guzman
Event Production: Ward & Ames Special Events
Décor: The Events Company
Cuisine for Luncheon: City Kitchen
Photography: Jenny Antill, Johnny Than Photography and Michelle Watson
Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation’s “A Celebration of Reading—Life. Liberty. Literacy.”—A New Adult Literacy Initiative is Launched
First Lady Barbara Bush believed that literacy is a foundation to reaching one’s fullest potential in life and realizing the American Dream. Her organization, Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation exemplifies that belief. Their 28th annual “A Celebration of Reading” attracted more than 700 guests to The Post Oak at Uptown ballroom, where more than $1.8 million was raised to help more people to learn to read, including $125,000 raised during the event to launch a new initiative, called Success Through Adult Reading (STAR) providing scholarships for adult learners in partnership with five community-based organizations.
Themed “Life. Liberty. Literacy.” in honor of the late first lady, red, white and blue décor by The Events Company filled the reception areas and ballroom. Guests were donned head to toe in festive and patriotic Americana attire.
The annual gala attracts bestselling authors from all over the country. This year’s roster of superb writers were: Alafair Burke, sisters and presidential daughters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, Brad Meltzer, and Dr. Rick Rigsby.
The United States Navy Color Guard of Houston started the evening by presenting the colors by and Barbara Bush Elementary School students recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Native Houstonian and NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Dana Monique joined the Ernest Walker Community singers to sing “America the Beautiful.”
Foundation Chairs Maria and Neil Bush welcomed guests to the 28th annual event and recognized seven-time Title Sponsor Phillips 66 and Presenting Sponsor Quanex Foundation.
The Foundation’s President and CEO Dr. Julie Baker Finck presented the organization’s new STAR initiative which will address the importance of adult literacy within Houston and will work to help individuals learn English, earn a GED, and grow their literacy skills to ensure a brighter future.
Julie then announced the first-ever A Celebration of Reading raffle to fund a STAR scholarship. Phillips 66 generously made a lead gift of $50,000 along with EOG Resources, who promised to match $25,000 of contributions made by guests that night. The raffle, sponsored by deBoulle Diamond and Jewelry, featured a $15,000 dazzling diamond and gold bangle bracelet and a one-night stay at The Post Oak Hotel with champagne and chocolates.
Former District Attorney and now full-time mystery writer and criminal law professor Alafair Burke took the stage and shared her journey of turning her fascination for crime and mystery books as a child into a newfound career.
Brad Meltzer, a well-known comic book author among other traits, shared how he developed a personal relationship with President George H.W. and Barbara Bush through his books and gave the audience insights into his latest thriller, The Lightning Rod, and spotlighted his children’s book series.
Channel 2 news anchor Daniella Guzman took the stage to moderate a discussion between sisters Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush The sisters first spoke of their personal relationship and of family, and how their “Ganny,” (the late First Lady Barbara Bush) instilled a lifelong love of literacy in them. Their most recent children’s book was inspired by their mother, former First Lady Laura Bush, who was an only child, yet found women in her life to become her “sisters” throughout life.
Dr. Rick Rigsby’s father was a third-grade dropout. He made a powerful presentation about the values and wisdom his father taught him, which he has carried throughout his life and passed on to his children, as well as to the many people he inspires through his podcast and years as a professor, chaplain and life coach for the legendary Texas A&M football coach, R. C. Slocum.
Singer Dana Monique returned to the stage for the finale with an outstanding rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Color Me America” accompanied again by the Ernest Walker Community Singers.
A three-course meal followed the performance and the Foundation’s Chief Development Officer Lisa Jakel accompanied the chairpersons to announce the winners of the raffle.
Prior to the gala, Terri and John Havens hosted chairpersons Maria and Neil Bush, major donors and the recognized authors into their French-inspired River Oaks home for a delicious lunch catered by City Kitchen, which featured chilled golden gazpacho, pan-seared Red Bird Farms breast of chicken with red quinoa salad and Skuna Bay salmon with sauce verte, beluga lentils and crispy roasted Brussels sprouts. Dessert presented a Spanish almond and white chocolate tart with Carajillo caramel sauce and cinnamon mascarpone.
The excitement continued following lunch, where John Havens gave guests a tour of the grounds of his home, including the 200-year-old chapel imported from Chateau de Bruneaux in Firminy, France.
Socially present Luncheon guests (not previously mentioned): Eileen and James Bartlett, Laurie and Mark Lashier, Angela Bongat, Melissa Champion, Sean Simpson, Pat and Kevin Mitchell, Sarahbeth and Pierce Bush, Ron Finck, Mark Jakel and Deborah Stavis
Socially present Gala guests (not previously mentioned): Alice and Keith Mosing, Betty and John Hrncir, Rosanette Cullen, Linda McReynolds, Rhonda and Mike Graff, Gail and Greg Garland, Sidney Faust, Elsie Eckert, Amy and Kyle McCully, Kathrine G. McGovern, Anne Neeson, Monte Stavis, Laura and Tim Roberts, Terri and Greg Ebel, Martha and Mark Carnes, Grace and Robert Givens, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Jennifer and Lance Gilliam, Nancy Ames and Danny Ward, Karen and Denis Boulle, Beverly and Jim Postl, Al Carnrite, Trish Morille, Judy Miller, Shana and Brian Mandell, Lisa and Ryan Lance, Walter Montaigne, Julie Dill, Carolyn and David Light, Jill and Ryan Ramshaw; Bill Yardley and Toni Beck; Molly and Greg Bobrow, Lisa and Greg Harper, Daniela and Stephen Herring, Joanne and Kevin Howard, Martha and Thomas Maness, Ruiyang Xia, Laura Frishman, Scott Ulrich and Ernest Trevino, Gillian Tilbury, Charles and Nathalie Roff and Patricia and Sig Cornelius.